By Pat Gainor, Staff Writer
Two people were killed and seven students were injured in a deadly school shooting at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in St. Louis last Monday.
According to police reports, Orlando Harris, who graduated from the same school last year, entered through a locked door with an AR-15 and 600 rounds of ammunition. During the shooting, which lasted about 13 minutes, he entered a classroom and shot nine people. After Harris left, students escaped by jumping out of the third story window. Seven additional students were injured.
Police arrived at the scene four minutes after Harris began to fire shots. Approximately 10 minutes later, police shot and killed Harris after engaging in a firefight on campus.
Alexandria Bell, 15, was pronounced dead at the scene. Physical education teacher Jean Kuczka, 61, died due to her injuries at the hospital.
“This is a heartbreaking day for all of us,” Lt. Col. Michael Sack, the interim St. Louis Police Commissioner, said shortly after the shooting. “It’s gonna be tough. While on paper we may have nine victims, eight that were transported, one that remains, we have hundreds of others.”
A further investigation showed that Harris attempted to purchase the same gun at a dealer in St. Charles but was refused. According to Sgt. Charles Wall, Harris obtained the gun “from a private seller, who legally purchased the weapon from a federally licensed dealer in December 2020.”
“There is no existing law which would have prevented the private sale between the original purchaser and the suspect in this case,” Wall added.
On Oct. 15, police responded to a domestic disturbance at Harris’ home after his mother reportedly discovered the gun and wanted it removed from the house. Police determined that the 19-year-old had legally purchased the gun but agreed to transfer it to a third party known to the family and Harris.
Harris’ family, who has cooperated with the investigation, also said that they did everything they could, including helping Harris get treatment and medication for his poor mental health.
“The impression I get from the investigators that spoke to the mother was they did everything they could have done, but sometimes that’s not enough,” Sack said.
The reasons behind Harris’ regaining possession of the gun are still under investigation. Found in his car was a note, detailing that he had felt completely alone.
“I’ve been an isolated loner my entire life. This was the perfect storm for a mass shooter,” Sack read in a press conference.
St. Louis Mayor Tishuara Jones released a statement hours after the shooting, saying that students and parents alike should not have to be consistently fearful of gun violence in schools.
“Guns on our streets and in our schools are a national emergency and a public health crisis,” she said. “Our schools and other places of learning should be safe — period.” Jones is the head of a bipartisan mayor’s group who has partnered with the Biden administration to help curb gun violence.
Rep. Cori Bush (D-St. Louis) also released a statement condemning the record high number of school shootings that have occurred this year alone.
“The tragedy at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School marks the 40th school shooting this year,” she said last week. “This is unconscionable and inexcusable. The epidemic of gun violence and the ensuing trauma it leaves in its wake needs to stop.”
Missouri has no requirements for a concealed carry permit or age restrictions on who can purchase a gun. Missouri is one of 23 states, including Ohio, – that has permitless concealed carry laws on the book..
Sen. Josh Hawley and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) both sent out their condolences shortly after the shooting. “Devastating news in St. Louis,” Hawley said. “I’m grateful for the swift response of local law enforcement. My office is in contact with local authorities, and we stand ready to offer all assistance possible.”
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